Ex-Teen Tennis Star Finds Higher Calling

A quarter of a century ago, Andrea Jaeger was a teenage tennis star. By the age of 15, she was ranked No. 2 in the world, but was knocked out of the game by a serious injury.

She went on to find a new career helping children with cancer and other life threatening diseases with her Little Star Foundation. Last year she fulfilled a call and became an Anglican Dominican nun.

Jaeger said that even as a child, she always felt a strong pull towards God, but didn't share her feelings with others because she didn't know how people would react.

"I just felt like he was always my best friend — that God was with me," she told The Early Show co-anchor Hannah Storm. "And we just kept sharing. And I continued on this spiritual journey. I received a degree in ministry, theology, I wrote a book on my faith. It wasn't something I really knew how to share, but I felt like God gives you those things. He gives you that grace and that ability and that strength to say, OK, well, let's do this together. And that's what happens."

Her relationship with God helped Jaeger deal with the intense pressure of turning professional at age 14. She was much younger than her peers and didn't have many friends on the tennis tour. Still, she beat played in Grand Slam finals, and also beat top players like Billie Jean King.

"Being in an adult environment, there's a lot of situations that perhaps I wasn't prepared for the part — the human behavior part where I just didn't feel great beating people," she said. "I just didn't. I walked in the locker room and I saw the effects of what was happening when I won a match.

"And I just thought, 'Can't I just train hard, work hard, and we tie at the end?' And that, I realized, was part of my development into the service oriented career. Because you have to have that killer instinct in professional sports, in individual sport. It's really handy to have that killer instinct. I just traveled the world as a professional tennis player and helped others on my free time."

Jaeger began investing in hospitals and found that more fulfilling. She enjoyed contributing to society. She started bringing children with life-threatening illnesses to her ranch in Colorado. Many of the children died, and Jaeger said her faith helps her deal with that.

"I don't know how the families go through it," she said. "They're the ones who are living it — living with cancer, these children. And the families, they're finding faith in God to go, 'Give me the strength.' But it does, it — rips your heart out. I mean, we do long-term care. For 16 years now, we've been providing long-term care for children with cancer. The fund-raising part hasn't been easy."

Becoming a nun was taking her devotion to God another step further. It was a calling, Jaeger said, and she responded to "divine guidance."

"And I believe God knows what the bigger purpose," she said. "I mean, there's great faith. You know, he's got a family of all of us. You know, his son and the Holy Spirit and there's this whole group of people that are in the world together and we can all get along.

"I mean, I think religion is a place where if you just put your faith in god and your relationship with god and produce the love, God's love, God's forgiveness, God's acceptance and tolerance and how you want to join together, that's what happens. And then you end up helping your neighbor. So that's what I want to keep doing and running little star and just perhaps being a better service in the world."

For more on the Little Star Foundation visit its Web site.
  • Caitlin Johnson

Comments